Office Assistant Job Description (Skills, Duties, Salary & More)

By Jeff Gillis

One thing is true in all companies; it takes a team to thrive. While CEOs often get much of the glory, it’s the power of their workforce that creates that glory in the first place. And one of the often-unsung heroes in that workforce is the office assistant.

What’s one thing all businesses have in common? They have administrative tasks to handle. That’s where office assistants come in.

A core part of the office assistant job description is tackling these everyday tasks. They ensure that higher-ups don’t have to worry about paperwork piling up, scheduling appointments, and more. If you are wondering if the office assistant duties are right for you, come with us as we take a deep dive into what this critical position is all about.

What Is an Office Assistant?

Alright, let’s start with the basics; what is an office assistant anyway?

In the simplest terms, an office assistant is an administrative professional that handles a variety of basic tasks. They are the foundation of clerical support, managing a range of must-dos like organizing records, proofreading documents, and more.

An office assistant might support a single manager, an entire department, or even a whole company, if the business is smaller. Office assistant duties can vary dramatically, as a result, though they are almost always quite diverse.

It’s important to understand that office assistants aren’t necessarily the same thing as receptionists, administrative assistants, or executive assistants. Sure, there are instances where the duties overlap, but that doesn’t make them equal.

Typically, office assistants or receptionists are considered more entry-level roles. However, receptionists usually focus on front desk style duties, while an office assistant may spend more of their time on back-of-house tasks.

Administrative assistants usually fall closer to the middle in the hierarchy, requiring more skills or experience to ensure they can handle some complex duties. Executive assistants are a bit higher-level, often needing advanced capabilities, allowing them to address the needs of CEOs and other members of the leadership team without much guidance.

JEFF'S TIP: Some companies do use the various admin job titles a bit interchangeably. Plus, the exact requirements for a role will vary from one company to the next. As with all jobs, read the job description thoroughly to see if you qualify. That way, you aren’t accidentally missing out on an opportunity simply because an employer chose a different label.

What Are an Office Assistant’s Duties/Responsibilities?

Now that you have a general idea of what an office assistant is, let’s dig a bit deeper into the office assistant job description. Often, a position’s responsibilities are the easiest way to get a real feel for a role, so let’s start there.

Now, the office assistant duties usually vary from one company to the next. Every business is going to have different needs, leading to some level of variation.

However, most office assistant jobs have certain things in common. Here’s a look at some of the office assistant duties a position usually includes:

    • Manage records and files
    • Update paperwork and databases
    • Create documents, including correspondence and reports
    • Book appointments
    • Handle travel-related bookings
    • Maintain supplies and order more when inventory is low
    • Process mail
    • Maintain office equipment
    • Greet visitors
    • Conduct research

What Skills Do Office Assistants Need?

Overall, many of the office assistant duties fall definitively into the clerical world. In many cases, they were likely responsibilities you’d expect for an entry-level administrative role.

But even if the office assistant job description isn’t surprising, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take skill to do well. As with all jobs, the right capabilities and traits are a must. Otherwise, you won’t excel in the position.

First, let’s focus on hard skills. These capabilities focus on the kinds of expertise a person needs to handle the duties. For office assistants, here’s a look at what they need to bring to the table:

    • Business correspondence
    • Report creation
    • Office equipment operation
    • Filing best practices
    • Computer operation
    • Productivity software
    • Calendar management and scheduling
    • Travel booking
    • Recordkeeping
    • Data-entry
    • Typing
    • Multi-line telephone systems
    • Call screening and routing

While that may seem like a lot, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. To be a great office assistant, it’s also critical to have the right traits. These allow them to navigate the workplace efficiently and effectively, ensuring they can handle their duties and coordinate well with other employees.

Here are some of the critical traits office assistants simply must have:

At times, leadership skills are also beneficial. This is especially true if an office assistant is essentially running a front desk, which can happen.

What Education, Training, Certification Is Required?

To get started as an office assistant, you don’t need any advanced education or training. Typically, a high school diploma or GED is enough, as long as you developed the necessary computer skills along the way.

However, that doesn’t mean some education can’t help. An Associate’s degree may help you stand out from the pack, for example, or it may allow you to qualify without any experience. Plus, some employers may consider an Associate’s degree a must-have, even for entry-level opportunities.

Additionally, some specialty office assistants may need some extra education. For example, a medical or legal office assistant might at least need some college coursework, if not an Associate’s degree or more.

Generally, there aren’t any office assistant certifications that you’ll need to worry about. However, there are skill-oriented certifications that can help, depending on the duties you want to take on.

For example, the Microsoft Office Specialist certifications let you showcase your know-how in specific pieces of software you’d likely use on the job. You can pick and choose which ones to get, allowing you to focus on just the ones that bring value to your career.

If you want to use an office assistant position as a first stop on a longer administrative career, then you might want to look at the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential. It can be a great foundation that can help you move forward to more advanced positions.

Office Assistant Salary

If you think that the office assistant job description sounds pretty great, then you’re probably wondering how much you could make if you land a job. If so, you’re in luck. We’ve got your back.

Generally speaking, office assistants usually make about $37,568 a year. While that may not sound like a lot, it’s important to remember that this job can often qualify as entry-level. You don’t need any higher education or specific training to get started, so it isn’t necessarily going to pay as much as some other office-based roles.

Additionally, an office assistant position can be used as a stepping stone. You can use it to hone your skills, allowing you to move up into an administrative assistant or executive assistant role. At a minimum, you’ll gain valuable experience in an office, and that’s something that can benefit you if you decide to change fields later, too.

What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview

By now, you might be thinking, “This office assistant job description sounds pretty awesome, so what does it take to land one of these positions, anyway?” Well, usually, it takes a few things.

First, you need to make sure you have the skills and traits above. After that, it’s all about the interview.

By nailing the interview, you can stand out from other candidates. But how do you do that? With the right approach, of course.

First, do your research. Scour that office assistant job description for must-haves, allowing you to predict what you’ll need to talk about. Next, spend a little time on the company’s website, learning about its values, mission, and culture.

A trip to the company’s social media page can be helpful too. You’ll learn about recent achievements as well as more about its culture. That’ll give you a ton of details to work into your answers, showing you went the extra mile.

Alright, but what about those blasted behavioral interview questions? What do you do for those? Well, first, don’t panic. With the right strategy by your side, you’ve got this.

Begin by taking a look at the STAR Method. Next, spend time exploring the Tailoring Method. Twist those two strategies together, and you’re set. You’ll be ready to create relevant, engaging answers that will keep the hiring manager interested in what you have to offer.

Putting It All Together

If the idea of becoming an office assistant sounds perfect, that’s great! You’ll be a crucial part of any workplace, ensuring administrative tasks are handled quickly and correctly. Make sure to use the information and tips above – particularly about nailing your interview – to your advantage. That way, you can have the career of your dreams.

Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.